Reversal of Mexico City policy off the table for anniversary of Roe v. Wade

UPDATE: Obama signature reversing Mexico City policy brings quick condemnation.

SECOND UPDATE: Cardinal Rigali calls decision “very disappointing.

Despite some expectations that President Barack Obama would issue an executive order reversing the Mexico City policy on Jan. 22, it apparently isn’t going to happen, at least not today, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The policy prohibits recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting or providing abortions. It was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, reversed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and reestablished under President George W. Bush in 2001. Clinton and Bush each took their actions on Jan. 22.

A reversal of the policy is almost certainly going to be ordered, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. But in contacts with some Catholic leaders, representatives of the administration signaled that Obama is trying to be at least sensitive to timing, by declining to announce such a change while abortion protesters were marching in Washington and elsewhere.

Some Catholic leaders who have been in touch with Obama’s staff this week encouraged the administration to pair any such orders — which they see as a rollback of progress against abortion — with an announcement about new efforts to aid pregnant women, or otherwise help reduce demand for abortion.

Late in the day Obama issued a statement reaffirming his commitment to “protecting a woman’s right to choose.” He added that “while this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information and preventative services.”

The statement concluded by saying “we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons” including access to education, fulfilling careers, to be treated fairly and paid equally “and to have no limits on their dreams.”

A look back at the first March for Life

Today marks 36 years that pro-life groups have assembled in Washington to mark the 1973 Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Roe v. Wade.  At CNS we thought it would be interesting to see what we said about that first march on Jan. 22, 1974.

Fredrick A. Green covered the first march for CNS (then NC News). He reported that 15,000 people showed up, many on buses from around the country.

“The right-to-life advocates spent the morning lobbying the offices of senators and members of the House of Representatives and then gathered in the afternoon at the west steps of the Capitol to hear speeches by congressional sponsors of human life amendments and leaders of the right-to-life movement.

“Later, they marched in a ‘circle of life’ around the Capitol,” he wrote.

Among the speakers were Sen. James Buckley, R-N.Y., and Rep. Lawrence Hogan, R-Md. Both men had introduced human life amendments in Congress. Hogan told Green that the demonstration “will be a boost” to his efforts.

“Some congressmen, apparently moved by the demonstrators, had called earlier in the day to offer their signatures, Hogan said, and he expects to get more support after the rally,” Green wrote.

Another speaker was Msgr. James McHugh, director of the U.S. Catholic Conference family life division. (A number of years later Msgr. McHugh became Bishop McHugh, and the USCC became the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop McHugh has since died. The USCCB is still going strong.)

Green noted other events around the country to mark the first anniversary. Among them:

— In Oregon, leaflets were distributed to 100,000 homes.

— In Philadelphia, 15,000 persons gathered at Independence Hall.

— On Capitol Hill, 22,000 red roses were delivered to Members of Congress, a rose was delivered to all 140 members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, and in Minnesota 1,600 roses were sent to legislators.

— In Peoria, Ill., 300 people gathered in the county courthouse plaza and heard the Rev. John Hoffman say, “I’m a liberal Protestant, and liberal Protestants aren’t supposed to be opposing abortion.” But a fetus, he said is a human from the moment of conception. “The only thing it seems to lack is a voice to speak up and proclaim life, and it’s up to us to give it that voice.”

— In New York, Cardinal Terence Cooke announced plans to build a  parent-child development center at the Foundling Hospital.

— North Dakota went all out with a week of events. The highlight was a Saturday-night statewide television program featuring Bishop Justin A. Driscoll of Fargo, Sen. Buckley of New York, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Lutheran pastor Rev. Gary Clark. Just before noon on Jan. 22, church bells in every Catholic church and many Protestant ones rang out.

The event in Washington wasn’t without it moments of conflict. Students from the University of Maryland circulated a questionnaire that had event “marshals” scrambling.

Green wrote: “The students insisted that they were conducting a sociological study designed to determine if the participants in the demonstration fit the ‘stereotypes’ commonly associated with the anti-abortion movement. The questionnaire asked about sex, race, education, political affiliation and religion. The long list of questions included one on how the participants felt about making birth control information available to unmarried teenagers.”

An official of the National Right to Life Organization, as it was then called, said that they had “reviewed” but not “endorsed” the questionaire. How did they respond? In a pretty American way. Green reported that that the NRLO “did not feel it could interfere with the students’ right to ask questions at the rally.”

Catholic schools get nod from Congress

One day after the inaugural hoopla in Washington a quiet measure honoring the contributions of Catholic schools was approved by voice vote in the House. The measure praised Catholic schools for their academic accomplishments, education of minority students, and emphasis on values. It also supported the celebration of  Catholic Schools Week Jan. 25-31 .

In advance of the March for Life …

Riley Huelbig, 15, of the Academy of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Md., participates in a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Young people from across the nation packed the arena for the rally and Mass in advance of the annual March for Life. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Riley Huelbig, 15, of the Academy of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Md., participates in a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Young people from across the nation packed the arena for the rally and Mass in advance of the annual March for Life. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The 36th March for Life begins in a few minutes (some of us are stuck at our desks), but here are some stories and photos from last night and this morning.

Photos from last night’s vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are available on our Facebook page (but you don’t need to be a Facebook member to view them). And here are some stories:

Cardinal: Work with officials when ‘we can,’ ‘protest when we must’

State of the Union: March for Life Vigil Mass (from the Arlington Catholic Herald)

Thousands pack national shrine to pray, launch March for Life 2009

‘We are a people of hope,’ Bishop Loverde tells pro-life Mass

UPDATE: Here are more photos from today.